King Avenue’s Artwork Deco Riviera Theater internet hosting live shows, not motion pictures, this time round | Charleston Scene

If you stroll beneath the flashing marquee and throughout the gold, inexperienced and maroon marble tiles of the Riviera Theater at 225 King St., you’re stepping previous a forgotten leisure landmark. 

The artwork deco theater, constructed by Albert Sottile with the assistance of famend regional architect Charles C. Benton in 1939, as soon as charged 25 cents a film and seated upward of 780 folks on the principle flooring and 125 within the balcony for the newest characteristic flicks projected onto a 50-foot display screen.

Now, it’s reopening, however for a distinct goal. 

Stepping again in time

The day the Riviera initially opened, the Charleston Night Submit (now The Submit and Courier) printed, “It’s trendy in fashion with basic proportions and Greek motif. The facade is of sunshine stone trimmed with black. The constructing is of metal body development, fireproof. The vestibule and lobby are completed in black formica and chromium with background of flex wooden. There’s a mezzanine with grill, and reverse it a protracted mural depicting a scene of Lake Como. This was painted over a earlier mural which was marred by the unique artist in a match of pique.”

The Lake Como mural nonetheless covers an inside wall of the theater, whereas the unique balcony seats, constructed to final, peer beneath right into a retro-carpeted ballroom that hasn’t been majorly up to date for the reason that Seventies.

Throughout that decade, in 1977 to be precise, the movie show closed its doorways, leaving no movement image home in operation on the peninsula for the primary time for the reason that Theatorium opened in 1907. 


The theater’s artwork deco fashion, from its exterior to inside, is on show. Offered

That very same decade, the constructing’s demolition was pursued however met with an uproar from preservation-minded residents who in the end flatlined these plans. 

Within the ’80s, the Charleston Board of Architectural Overview denied builders’ plans to show the constructing right into a restaurant and retail house, and a gaggle of native residents shaped an curiosity group that gathered greater than 5,000 signatures to protect the constructing as a theater. 

Raymond Knight, Jr., purchased the place in 1988 with hopes to renovate the house with preservation in thoughts, in the end updating the marquee and Carrara glass on the King Avenue exterior earlier than placing it available on the market. 

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Within the early ’90s, then-Mayor Joseph P. Riley expressed his curiosity within the house’s conservation. “However, by all means, the town shouldn’t be fascinated with a demolished theater,” he mentioned on the time.

In 1993, Metropolis Council authorized the acquisition of the theater, which the town leased to Charleston Place Associates.

And that leads us to the current.

The Charleston Place and The Riviera 

The once-abandoned and derelict house, which is now listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations, is lastly opening its doorways to most people as soon as extra.  

The plan is to proceed to take action round as soon as per week, as soon as scheduling picks up, for the remainder of the calendar 12 months, in response to Beemok Hospitality President Casey Lavin. 


The Riviera Theater balcony fills up for the sold-out Jewel live performance on March 18, the primary occasion open to the general public within the historic house in fairly a while. Offered

The hospitality group is owned by Charleston billionaire and benefactor Ben Navarro, who bought the Riviera as a part of a deal buying The Charleston Place final 12 months for $350 million.

The lodge and procuring hub immediately throughout the road has used the Riviera as a convention and ballroom house for big teams since 1993. However with Navarro’s takeover comes considerably of a philanthropic alternative to permit Charleston locals again into the venue for a goal just like its authentic intent.

“A part of what our purpose was was to animate these crossroads in Charleston, carry life to that space that draws locals specifically and produce them again to the middle of city,” mentioned Lavin. 

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Concert events, comedy exhibits, off-Broadway productions and podcast tapings are all on the books, in response to Lavin. Extra can be introduced in tandem with an upcoming rebrand that may embody a brand new web site and social media pages with easy accessibility to buying tickets. 

The purpose isn’t to make cash, Lavin added, however to hopefully break even and reanimate the house, giving entry together with an leisure expertise to the Charlestonians who’ve by no means been inside. 

“What we need to discover is the celebration of stay performing arts,” he mentioned. “It’s positively not a income factor. Candidly, it’s not one thing we’re doing as a result of it’s a superb enterprise mannequin.”

The primary public occasion on the Riviera was a sold-out efficiency by Jewel on March 18.

The second can be a live performance that includes The Wallflowers (starring Bob Dylan’s son Jakob) on April 15, adopted by The Wailers on Could 26, Ann Wilson on June 10, Colbie Caillat on June 17, Collective Soul and Switchfoot on Sept. 9, and Father John Misty on Sept. 19. 


The setup for Jewel for a live performance on the Riviera Theater on March 18, 2022. Offered

Lavin describes the environment and ambiance of those ticketed occasions as “a bit of extra clubby, like a speakeasy that you simply’d go right down to the in ’20s and ’30s.”

The balcony seats will stay within the again, whereas chairs will fill within the first flooring. In between, there can be a restricted variety of VIP tables for lease, the place company can obtain desk service, like bottles of wine and charcuterie. Lavin mentioned the Riviera can be using the culinary group at The Charleston Place, however there are additionally hopes for native restaurant and chef collaborations. 

The expertise can be personalised primarily based on every artist performing. 

“It feels extra intimate,” mentioned Lavin. “Not such as you’re going to a grand corridor, however a comfortable house the place you may get an actual sense of artists and what they sound like.”

It’s a far totally different house than the Credit score One Stadium on Daniel Island, additionally owned by Beemok Hospitality, however the purpose is similar. 

“A part of our mission is to be a mechanism and car to permit folks to attach and produce pleasure into the lives of others,” mentioned Lavin. “It’s one other alternative to do one thing that fairly frankly must be carried out, permitting locals to get out for an evening.”

Lavin asserted the ticket costs will stay “cheap,” although to this point they’re skewing increased than the Charleston Music Corridor, for instance. A seat for The Wallflowers, which might be bought at, will value between $47 and $63. 

Lavin mentioned that a lot of the 75 or so non-public occasions that occur on the Riviera yearly will nonetheless stay. These exhibits can be held as well as.

Parking can be accessible at The Charleston Place storage together with different close by garages, and naturally the expertise will get to remain on the lodge proper throughout the road. 


Between balcony and flooring seats can be tables for exhibits, the place company can obtain desk service, like wine and bites to eat. Offered

Preservation and presentation

Lavin added that the theater will proceed to be preserved, from the surface marquee and terrazzo to most elements of the classic inside, with no plans for any main renovations. 

Simply touchups and know-how upgrades have been made up to now. A historic constructing within the historic district, the house additionally should undergo the Board of Architectural Overview to approve any exterior modifications. 

The Preservation Society of Charleston‘s a hundred and first annual assembly passed off on the Riviera in October, together with the annual Carolopolis Awards ceremony that acknowledges excellence in historic preservation. 

The theater stays beneath the group’s watchful eye, and Supervisor of Preservation Initiatives Anna-Catherine Carroll mentioned the society wouldn’t need the iconic artwork deco facade and character-defining components of the constructing to alter, together with any authentic options. 

This new use of the constructing is welcomed. It seems like a return to lively use, supplied Carroll, who mentioned the Preservation Society has been a proponent of the theater’s on-and-off operation for the reason that Nineteen Nineties as a personal occasion house. 

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“I feel in Charleston, we’re very lucky that so lots of our historic buildings are in lively use, and on the Preservation Society, we’re supportive of artistic and adaptive use of historic areas, as a result of it fosters long-term preservation,” mentioned Carroll. “To ensure that an area to be preserved, it must be purposeful.”

The Beemok Hospitality Group appears to be on the identical web page, with no plans to overtake the design. 

“It’s one of many crown jewels of the town,” mentioned Lavin. “… The persona of the constructing, we’d by no means need to change.” 

He additionally gave a nod to citizen teams, just like the Mates of the Riviera, who years in the past petitioned to maintain the house intact and out of the arms of builders. 

“If it weren’t for just a few lively neighborhood members who had been actually enthusiastic about defending the story of the Riviera, I don’t know if it could be what it’s immediately,” mentioned Lavin. 

In a means, it’s good to suppose that the theater is reverting to one thing near its authentic intention, although the 50-foot display screen is now not the supply of laughter and tears among the many crowd. As a substitute, it’ll this time round be guitar strings and lyrics. 

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